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Power of Complexity.
the scaffold. Baron Görz, when being led to death, said to his cook—“It's all over now, my friend, you will never cook me a good supper again.” The poet Kleist, who was killed in the battle of Kunersdorf, was seized with a violent fit of laughter just before he expired, when he thought of the extraordinary faces a Cossack, who had been plundering him, made over the prize he had found. In the same way a lady told me that a friend of hers, having had a severe fall from his horse, drew a caricature of the accident while the litter was being prepared for him. Scarron was constantly in bodily suffering; and Norman Macleod wrote some humorous verses “On Captain Frazer's Nose” when he was enduring such violent pain that he spent the night in his study, and had occasionally to bend over the back of a chair for relief.
Charles Mathews retained his love of humour to the last. I have heard that, when dying at Plymouth, he ordered himself to be laid out as if dead. The doctor on entering exclaimed, “Poor, fellow he's gone! I knew he would not last long,” and was just leaving the room with some sad reflections, when he heard the lamented man chuckling under the sheet.
Thus, also, a German General relates that after a skirmish a French hussar was brought
in with a huge slash across his face. “Have you received a sabre cut, my poor fellow ?” asked the General. “Pooh, I was shaved too closely this morning," was the reply. Something may be attributed in such cases to nervous excitement, which seeks relief in some counteraction. Mr. Hardy observes that there appears to be always a superficial film of consciousness which is left disengaged and open to the notice of trifles.
Addison says that false humour differs from true, as a monkey does from a man. He goes on to say that false humour is given to little apish tricks, and buffooneries. Now the reason why Addison and cultivated men in general do not laugh at buffooneries and place them in the catalogue of false humour, is simply because they do not present to their minds any complication. When harlequin knocks the clown and pantaloon over on their backs, “the gods ” burst with laughter, unable to understand the catastrophe, but those who have seen such things often, and consider that men make a living by such tricks, see nothing at all strange in it, remain grave and perhaps wearied. It was the want of complication that probably prevented Uncle Shallow from complying with the simple Slender's request to “Tell Mistress Anne the jest how my father stole two geese out of a pen."
catastrophe laughter. In their back
Humour and Taste.
It may be almost unnecessary to observe that all errors in taste are not ludicrous. “ Teaboardy” pictures do not make us laugh, we only attribute them to unskilful artists, of whom unfortunately there are too many. Nor is the ludicrous to be classed under the head of taste ; very often that which awakens it offers no violence to our æsthetic sensibilities. It is true that in Art, that which appears ludicrous will always be distasteful, for it will offend the eye or ear, but it is something more, and we occasionally speak as though it were outside taste altogether. Thus when we see some very evident failure in a sketch, we say “this is a most wretched work, and out of all drawing,” and add as a climax of disapprobation “It is perfectly ridiculous.” A violation of taste is never sufficient for the ludicrous, and the ludicrous is not always a violation of taste.
There is something in humour beyond what is merely unexpected. I remember a physician telling me that a gentleman objected very much to some prescriptions given to his wife, and wanted some quack medicines tried. The doctor opposed him, and on the gentleman calling on him and telling him he was unfit for his profession, there was an open rupture between them, and they cut each other in the street. Not long afterwards the gentleman died, and
left him a legacy of £500. The doctor could not help being amused at the bequest under such circumstances, though, had it come equally unexpectedly from a mere stranger, he would have been merely surprised.
In some humorous sayings we find several different complications, which increase the force. Coincidences of this kind not only add to, but multiply humour in which when of a high class the complexity is very subtle. It has much increased since ancient times, there was a large preponderance of emotion.
Imperfection-An Impression of Falsity implied—Two
Views taken by Philosophers-Firstly that of Voltaire, Jean Paul, Brown, the German Idealists, Léon Dumont, Secondly that of Descartes, Marmontel and Dugald Stewart-Whately on Jests-Nature of Puns-Effect of Custom and Habit-Accessory Emotion-Disappointment and Loss-Practical Jokes.
LTHOUGH a distinction can be drawn in
humour between the sense of wrong and the complication which accompanies it, still, as in any given case, the two flow out of the same circumstances, there seems to be some indissoluble link between them. It is not necessary to say that the sense of the ludicrous is a compound feeling, to maintain that it has the appearance of containing or being connected with something like a feeling of disapprobation.
Moreover, all the elements contained must be perfectly fused together before the ludicrous can be appreciated, just as Sir T. Macintosh observes of Beauty, “Until all the separate pleasures which create it be melted into oneas long as any of them are discerned and felt